Follow TV Tropes


Cynicism Catalyst
aka: Dead Little Sister

Go To

"Mom raised me to be a man of faith. I lost that faith at Serenity Valley."
Captain Malcolm Reynolds, Serenity Role-Playing Game

The Cynicism Catalyst is a traumatic, disillusioning event that drives many heroes to more morally dubious methods or outright antivillainy. Before, they were more idealistic, but after this event they became more cynical and felt that the current way things are done just wasn't enough. Frequently, this means either picking up less traditionally heroic methods or deciding the established way of doing things is simply not good enough. It won't happen again.


Frequently, the event is the death of an innocent family member (like a parent or beloved sibling), a close friend, or a love interest. Apart from this, a Broken Pedestal can cause this sort of personality change if the character lets it affect them too strongly. After the catalyst takes effect, the character will generally turn broodier and less open to companionship.

Many works will be dedicated at least in part to getting this character to open up, let it go, and move on. This makes them vulnerable to Morality Pets and sudden bursts of moral insight. Sadly, sometimes they just can't do it or they feel that it's too late.

Expect a Hollywood Atheist to have one of these to explain why he or she does not believe in God. An outright villain will generally not have a Cynicism Catalyst: The trope is reserved for those who are still attempting to do good, leaving it the domain of the Anti-Hero, the Anti-Villain, and the Well-Intentioned Extremist.


Compare Death by Origin Story for something that spurred a hero into action, Took a Level in Cynic for a character who becomes more cynical but may remain a good person, and Freudian Excuse for pure villains. For a more prolonged wearing down of idealism into cynicism, see Stopped Caring. Also compare Heroic BSoD and Despair Event Horizon for more seriously disabling breaks.

Some of the examples that follow also fall under one or more Death Tropes. Most spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.



    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Angel Beats!: Yurippe. In her case, the catalyst were two dead little sisters and one little brother. The murder of her younger siblings led to her creating the Afterlife Battlefront in the first place.
  • Happens to Guts twice in Berserk. Guts' first traumatizing experience was at the age of 6 or 7 when he was raped by a male soldier at the convenience of his adoptive father Gambino, who he later had to kill when he got drunk and tried to murder him. After this, Guts had almost lost all of his trust in people. In his teen years, he joins the Band of the Hawk and over the course of the Golden Age storyline, Guts' trust in people starts to build up as the themes of camaraderie, friendship, and love prevail. Tragically, an even greater and more horrifying event happened during the Eclipse, where all of his friends were sacrificed and eaten by hordes of demons, and his lover was horrifically raped to insanity in front of him at the convenience of his former best friend Griffith, who did it all to become a demon god. This event all but utterly crushed Guts' spirit, to the point of becoming a ruthless Anti-Hero on the verge of losing his humanity to his undying hatred for Griffith and the demons. The Conviction Arc has him realizing that he fucked up big-time in leaving Casca alone to fight his demons and going through hell and high water to rescue her, picking up a new circle of True Companions along the way. He then goes on a quest to find a way to cure Casca of her Eclipse-induced madness, but the monster that Guts had to become through years of battle with the demons has never fully left him, and now takes the form of a monstrous Enemy Within.
  • Black★Rock Shooter: (Original only.) The music video is about the chain of events that led to the eponymous character's cynicism. The song is about Hatsune Miku trying to heal the character's heart.
  • The main character of Blade of the Immortal puts down his sword after his Bounty Hunter lifestyle led him to accidentally kill his sister's husband (he'd never met him before), causing said sister to mentally revert to a child-like state to cope. He picks it back up after his refusal to fight later resulted in his sister being graphically sliced to pieces. The story deals with his need to balance the two extremes; of course, the whole thing leans more towards violence, but generally it's for a good cause.
  • In Blast of Tempest, Mahiro doesn't care about saving the world and just wants to kill his sister's killer - not to get revenge or because she'd want him to or anything, but because it wasn't fair. He doesn't seem to care much that his parents were also killed, though. Interestingly, it turns out the sister was also protagonist Yoshino's girlfriend, which is the reason he ends up joining Mahiro.
  • Turkish Percia, Juliet's father and the final Knight of Cerebus of Boarding School Juliet became bitter and closed his heart to the world after his Secret Relationship became public and he and his lover got ostracized by both of their countries. However, his real regret isn't what happened to him (disowned by his own family, getting inflicted with Riches to Rags and forced to work from the ground up to regain his noble status) but rather that he never learned anything of what happened to Chiwa, the girl who he fell in love with in the first place. As far as Turkish knew, she might have suffered worse treatment than he did from her countrymen all because of him. Learning from both Romio and Juliet (the former happens to be Chiwa's son) that Chiwa cherished their short time together and that she still found happiness later in life allowed Turkish to move on from his guilt.
  • All the Claymores share more or less the same Dark and Troubled Past: family murdered by Youma, exiled from their village, and then are forced to become Half-Human Hybrid. That means that each Claymore has her complex and Cynicism Catalyst. A significant part of the story is about the various way each of them react with that, such as starting a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, feeling guilty of being the only survivor, or going Knight Templar.
  • In Code Geass:
    • Lelouch despises his home country after his father failed to explain his mother's assassination and sent him and Nunnally to Japan which he invaded later on. But when he received the power of Geass, he wanted to make a peaceful world for his sister despite his morally questionable methods. Then, it goes straight to the point when his actions got several of his friends in danger and the death of Shirley broke him up which caused him to go on a Disproportionate Retribution Roaring Rampage of Revenge on the Britannian research facility that experimented on the Geass users and attempt to get Rolo killed for murdering Shirley.
    • Suzaku Kururugi changed when Euphemia died in the hands of Zero. When he found out that Zero is his best friend Lelouch, he felt betrayed and had him captured and delivered to the Emperor where he earned a promotion as a Knight of Rounds and had his best friend's memories of his mother, his sister, and his Zero identity temporarily erased.
    • Cornelia li Britannia hated the Japanese because she believed that her half-siblings, Lelouch and Nunually, were reportedly dead while exiled in Japan. Then, her sister, Euphemia, was killed by Zero, who turned out to be her supposedly dead half-brother, much to her despair. A similar level of cynicism and bitterness in other royals, such as Clovis, can also be attributed to the believed deaths of Lelouch and Nunnally.
  • More or less the cause of all of Bird's Nest's angst in Copernicus Breathing, although it is up in the air as to whether or not Bird's Nest just feels guilty about and is having trouble moving past his little brother's death or if he actually killed Michel.
  • In Darker Than Black, Hei's little sister Bai disappeared during whatever the hell happened in South America. She actually somehow got fused with her brother as a Soul Fragment, but he doesn't know that. Anyone he thinks might know anything about what happened to her tends to be in for a great deal of pain thanks to his status as a Knight Templar Big Brother.
  • Halle Lidner from Death Note. She wishes to take down the Kira organization by joining the police force. Why? One of her relatives was killed by none other than Kyosuke Higuchi at the time when he acted as Kira.
  • Ken Ichijouji of Digimon Adventure 02 has a big brother who dies, and it certainly tears him apart.
  • Neo Saiba's digital world takeover in the manga Digimon V-Tamer 01 is motivated by his little sister who is in a wheelchair.
  • In Dragon Ball Super, the Tournament of Power becomes this towards Universe 11's Toppo and the Pride Troopers. Their entire universe ran on the ideals of justice, which their counterparts on Universe 2, the Magical Girl trio Kamikaze Fireballs and their friends, used The Power of Love. However, while Love helped them and others out, justice didn't — the Pride Troopers were knocked down to just three of their number due to the power of the Saiyans, especially the meek Saiyan Kale of Universe 6. The final straw was when their attempt to defeat the assassin Hit lead to their number dropping to three, especially when Goku, whom Toppo called a villain for giving Zen-Oh the reminder for the Tournament of Power, dropped in to help Hit. After this, Toppo told remaining members Jiren and Dyspo that there was no justice or evil, only survival and erasure.
  • In Dr Koto, a journalist comes to ruin Koto's life again, full of bitterness after his little sister died from Koto's lack of care.
  • Elfen Lied: Lucy's Kill All Humans mentality began because of the loss of her puppy at the hands of some very cruel kids. Her Start of Darkness was a lethal Unstoppable Rage you could almost root for.
  • In Et Cetera, Baskerville's younger sister was an Ill Girl whom he was trying to save. He joins the Syndicate in order to get access to a medicine for her, but it turns out the medicine was a narcotic that quickened her heart rate and worsened her condition, eventually killing her.
  • Mikagami from Flame of Recca, whose older sister died early. At some point before his Heel–Face Turn, he kidnaps Princess Yanagi and forcibly cuts her hair since she looks a lot like his sister.
  • Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist has two major Cynicism Catalyst events: the failed attempt to revive his mother through human transmutation that resulted in him losing an arm and a leg and his younger brother Alphonse being reduced to a soul attached to a walking suit of armor, and the horrible fate of Nina Tucker.
    • The Ishbalan genocide prior to the main timeline of the story had this effect on a lot of characters. Hawkeye in particular became cynical enough to ask Colonel Mustang to burn and scar her back so she could never share the secret of her father's research again lest it be used in war again.
  • In Fushigi Yuugi, Nuriko's dead sister Kourin inspires appearance. And Tamahome receives a power-up once Suboshi kills his family, ending with Tamahome's youngest sister. And for worse, Suboshi killed them because he blamed Tamahome for the apparent death of his older twin brother, Amiboshi. We later learn that Nuriko became a Cynicism Catalyst (in the form of a dead little brother) for his surviving sibling, Chou Rokou.
  • Himiko Kudo from Get Backers. Backstory is that Ban killed her brother, Yamato, while they were all thieves together.
  • In Gunslinger Girl the brothers Guiseppe and Jean are both seeking revenge for the death of their sister Enrica at the hands of terrorists. The names of their chosen weapons, the cyborgs 'Henrietta' and 'Rico', reflect this. The difference is that Jean is cold-blooded towards Rico (deliberately behaving like a jerk), whereas Guiseppe has created a surrogate in Henrietta, even (in the manga chapter "Fantasma") making her wear one of Enrica's dresses. Though Jean is visibly shocked by this act, he is unable to find the strength to reprimand his brother.
  • In Haikyuu!! Tsukishima Kei used to look up to his older brother Akiteru who had a passion for volleyball and told him that he was Karasuno's ace. When Tsukishima went to one of his matches (against his brother's will) it turns out that Akiteru wasn't even on the bench and had been lying all the time to not disappoint him. That was the moment when Tsukishima came to the conclusion that being passionate about volleyball (or anything really) only means that you will suffer later because there's always someone better out there.
  • Leon Oswald from Kaleido Star has a dead little sister. Her name was Sophie, she was his partner as well, and was killed in a car accident before a big competition in front of Leon himself. He still blames himself, and is always looking for someone like Sophie to a pretty destructive extreme), which leads him to main girl Sora Naegino.
  • Kaze no Stigma's Kazuma had his lover killed before the start of the series, which led him to undergo Training from Hell and becoming a pretty brutal Anti-Hero.
  • The Legend of Koizumi uses the real-life example of Robin and George W. Bush.
  • Kassim from Magi: Labyrinth of Magic has an example in his little sister. When she died from a sickness, he became bitter and changed from being a kind young boy to a cold young man who would gladly backstab his best friend for power.
  • In March Comes in Like a Lion, the deaths of his parents and sister are a large part of what sets up the foundation for Rei's negative outlook on life, and forcing him to consider things no kid would normally do, such as lying about his own interests in order to avoid being institutionalized by his surviving family.
  • In Martian Successor Nadesico, a young girl named Ai whom Akito meets in an underground shelter shortly before it's attacked by enemy Mecha-Mooks serves as a kind of Cynicism Catalyst to him. Eventually it turns out that she didn't die, but instead was sent first forward, then backward in time, and grew up to be one of the major characters, the local Hot Scientist, Inez Fressange.
  • Char Aznable of Mobile Suit Gundam wanted revenge on the Zabis for allegedly poisoning his father which forced him and his sister into exile. The Origin manga gave him a bigger Cynicism Catalyst where the death of his mother hammered it to the point of becoming violent much to his sister's horror.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam 00, Lockon Stratos's younger sister Amy and their parents were killed in a terrorist attack when he was a child. He's normally the cheery big brother of the team, but give him a chance for revenge...
    • Subverted by Lockon's younger brother Lyle. He does mourn for the deaths of Amy, their parents and Lockon himself, but decided not to specifically seek revenge over them. In fact, at the end of the series Lyle shoots Lockon's murderer Ali Al-Saachez to death, but it's less to avenge his brother and more because he does offer Ali a Last-Second Chance, Ali doesn't take it, and so he simply sticks to his word and his guns.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny:
    • The main character Shinn Asuka has his life changed forever when his little sister Mayu is accidentally blown up alongside their parents when they got caught in the crossfire of a major battle. To the point where Shinn carries around her cell phone and listens to her "leave a message after the beep" recording when he gets down.
    • It is lampshaded upon in Super Robot Wars Z, after being taken out of his berserker streak by Stella Louissier if they saved her earlier. When back at base, Shinn's girlfriend Lunamaria Hawke is concerned that Stella is going to be a contender for Shinn's heart, but Shinn tells her that he sees Stella as a platonic brother-sister relationship. Making up for your mistake there, huh, Shinn?
  • Moriarty the Patriot: Albert stopped trusting people who wanted to befriend him after he discovered a boy who he thought was his friend only hanged out with him to take advantage of his status.
  • In Murasakiiro no Qualia Yukari's death is this to Hatou, who changes completely after the event.
  • Naruto:
    • Inari's adoptive father Kaiza was brutally beaten and executed by corrupt businessmen's thugs when he tried to stop them from taking over their village. Inari then angrily declared heroes don't exist and nothing can stop bad guys.
    • Konan and Nagato/Pain became villains after the death of their best friend Yahiko when their faction was betrayed.
    • The death of his beloved Rin is what sent Obito off the deep end and what directly motivated him into becoming Tobi.
      • Specifically, it was sacrificing himself to save both Rin and Kakashi, going through a physically and psychologically difficult rehabilitation upon being rescued by Madara, then seeing Rin force Kakashi to kill her that first convinced Obito that the constantly-warring world wasn't worth considering "reality", thus setting his sights on making a new one.
    • Sasuke became obsessed with getting power at any cost following the massacre of his family, the Uchiha clan, at the hands of his elder brother Itachi. After discovering that Itachi was actually acting under orders from a Hidden Leaf Village to exterminate the Uchiha clan and prevent them from becoming a threat to the village, Sasuke redirects his desire for revenge against the Hidden Leaf Village.
    • Gaara was pushed over the edge when his uncle tried to kill him when he was little, claiming that he hated him for causing the death of his mother (his uncle's sister), who also hated his very existence.
    • Neji's father died when he was little in order to placate Kumogakure and avoid another war; his uncle Hiashi, the head of the main family, had killed a Kumogakure dignitary who tried to kidnap his three-year-old daughter Hinata to steal her Byakugan, but then Kumogakure demanded the body of the killer, most likely to get the Byakugan, and Neji's father ended up substituting for Hiashi, his twin brother. As a result, Neji hated every main family member, especially Hinata, for nine years.
    • Kakashi became obsessed with the shinobi code and began placing the mission above his teammates after his father committed suicide, having become ostracized and falling into despair for failing a mission to save his comrades.
    • Izuna was his brother Madara's entire world. Madara is the man he is today because of Izuna's death.
    • Both Orochimaru and Sasori were ultimately messed up when they lost their parents (individually, they're not brothers, but the circumstances of loss are basically the same, and they were, to an extent, initially motivated by a desire to get them back).
    • Tsunade lost both her brother and her lover, who had sought to protect the village as Hokage, and she turned her back on the village and began to view the title with disdain as a result.
    • In the pilot, Kuroda was friends with Saburo, a fellow artist, but Kuroda got stabbed by Saburo when he was chosen for the Council on Cultural Advancement, in the hopes of getting his job back. Kuroda survived, but became bitter and refused to trust others. Saburo was also deeply affected, painted "Symbol" to symbolize his hopes of reconciliation with Kuroda, and then was Driven to Suicide.
  • In Noein the pseudo-villain/anti-hero Atori watched his little sister step on a land mine. Atori's attachment to Miho is most likely due to her resemblance to his dead sister.
  • One Piece: The death of Bell-mère at the hands of Arlong caused Nami to hate pirates with a passion. She ultimately gets over it after Luffy defeats Arlong.
  • In PandoraHearts numerous characters become cynical or even villainous after losing people they care about and serve as a motivation for what they do.
    • Xerxes Break became a murderer after his family was killed by assassins and killed endlessly to bring them back to life.
    • Oswald became hardened after killing his little sister Lacie and is determined to do the same thing again by killing her once more.
    • Leo broke down completely when his best friend Elliot dies from committing suicide after learning the truth about his family and taking down the chain that forced him to kill them.
    • Zai Vessalius, whose cold, and arrogant demeanor and his rejection of Oz can be better explained by him having his son be stillborn and Jack switching his son with him, and then his wife dying in a carriage accident. Then his brother's wife and child died as well, leaving Zai alone to wallow in his misery and blame Oz the B-rabbit for something he did not do.
    • And perhaps the most ultimate example is that of Jack Vessalius, who started his Start of Darkness when he met Lacie, Oswald's sister, who gave him a reason to exist. He both fell in love with her and yet hated her, but he could only feel alive when she was with him. It is when she dies and Oswald informs Jack of it that Jack becomes a villain and starts falling down the slippery slope to insanityville, eventually trying to destroy the entire world for her, by using his chain the B-rabbit to do so.
  • In Paranoia Agent, Lil' Slugger comes about and ends up destroying Tokyo because Tsukiko felt guilty about her puppy dying when she was a child.
  • Pokémon: The First Movie's backstory. Mewtwo wasn't the only thing being cloned; a little girl who died in a car crash and three other Pokemon were as well. The four became friends via Mewtwo's psychic link, but the experiment went wrong and all but Mewtwo died. To really drive the nail home, the scientists unintentionally induced Laser-Guided Amnesia on him when they stabilized him, leaving him only with a subconscious memory of a friend who died for nothing. This did not end well when he was finally released and was told they're gonna experiment with him.
  • In Princess Tutu, Rue's transformation into Princess Kraehe was spurred by one of these. Mytho was the only person who ever cared about her, so when he starts falling in love with another girl, one she couldn't possibly surpass, she cracks.
  • In the manga and anime Project ARMS, Ryo Takatsuki goes on a brief downward spiral after believing he caused the death of his childhood friend and girl he loved Katsumi. When it turns out she was really alive, he spends most of the series traveling from Japan to America with his friends to rescue her, only to watch her be killed by his own hands by accident (the bad guy threw her in front of himself as Ryo attacked), which causes Ryo to nearly bring about the end of the world out of his guilt and sadness. Then, when it turns out she's not dead again but is implanted with ARMS of her own and kidnapped by the evil organization Ryo's been fighting, he must again battle his sadness while setting off to rescue her. Wow.
  • Psycho-Pass:
    • Shinya Kougami's descent to a latent criminal is brought by the brutal death of his Enforcer and close friend, Mitsuru Sasayama. When he found out that Makishima is one of the two people responsible for his death and the Sibyl System ordered the bureau to capture him alive instead of executing him, Kougami ended up leaving the bureau to take matters into his own hands.
    • Inverted for Akane who realized how flawed the Sibyl System was after she learned that they couldn't do anything to judge Makishima for killing her best friend. This experience made her into a realist, knowing that she cannot always rely on the system.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Kyouko's Cynicism Catalyst was the death of her little sister. And her mother. And her father. The last of whom killed the first two. Which was caused by revelation of Kyouko turning to magic. Because Kyouko wanted to bring people to that man's church. Is it a wonder that she's callous with her Magical Girl power?
    • Homura has a drawn-out Cynicism Catalyst with her third timeline - this is the timeline when she first saw Sayaka turn into a Witch and Mami Go Mad from the Revelation about the fate of Magical Girls. Starting with her next timeline reset, she gets rid of her glasses and Takes A Level In Badass, acting much colder towards the others.
    • According to Puella Magi Oriko Magica spinoff Noisy Citrine, Kirika's downward spiral into antisocial depression and madness began when she caught a closely trusted childhood friend shoplifting at the mall... and said friend literally left her holding the bag, to be caught by security in her place.
  • In Record of Lodoss War, Orson's berserker tendencies come from his older sister sacrificing herself to save him during a bandit attack on his home village which left him the Sole Survivor, which is why he flips his shit when he sees a woman, especially his companion Shiris, in danger.
  • Rebuild World: Akira’s Dark and Troubled Past is a Trauma Conga Line of growing up in the slums after Parental Abandonment and being betrayed by pretty much everyone he ever met, be it a Con Man, Honey Trap, or what have you, leaving him The Paranoiac. This eventually gets explained as being due to Akira unconsciously broadcasting his feelings and self-image into other people as a side effect of being a Differently Powered Indivual known as an Old World Connector, making this inevitable in a place like the slums where the weak get sacrificed for the good of the group.
  • Naofumi of The Rising of the Shield Hero was a Naïve Newcomer who was genuinely friendly and eager until he was robbed, framed for rape, had his name smeared throughout the country, and was thrown out on the street in his underwear. And all of this occurred in the span of one day. After this, he became a jaded cynic who was incapable of trusting anyone other than slaves.
    • The King Aultcray was originally a decent man and greatly skilled tactician until his sister's presumed death. This led him to loathe the Beast races and Demi-humans and by association the Shield Hero, whom they viewed as a god. The hatred led to his decision to sabotage Naofumi despite his wife's orders to treat him well.
  • In Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles, Marcus Rush has a dead big sister - namely (original) Marlene who was killed by the Invid at beginning of Mospeada, which is the reason he hates Invids so much. This results in quite a few rage attacks.
  • In Saiyuki, Hakkai's sister and lover Kanan was kidnapped and raped by youkai, and not wanting to give birth to a youkai child, killed herself right in front of him. This event left him hurt and with feelings of rage that he tries to put away.
  • In Saki, flashbacks show that Teru Miyanaga, the eponymous main character's older sister, was once cheerful and kind to her younger sister, but in the present day, after their parents have separated, she is aloof, refuses to speak with Saki, and even denies having a sister. The exact cause has not been revealed yet, but this montage implies the reason, by introducing a third girl who most likely died in a past incident.
  • Samurai Gun: Ichimatsu watched his sister get raped and murdered; leading to his quest to find whether his mysterious employers were responsible, and his Celibate Hero relationship with Hooker with a Heart of Gold Ohana.
  • In Sands of Destruction, Morte apparently Used to Be a Sweet Kid, but lost her parents to fighting with beastmen. The final straw comes when her younger brother Reve joins the Golden Lions and is killed; this sets her off on the path of world destruction and ultimately sets up the entire plot. This is not the case of the manga or original videogame, though; in them, her reason for wanting to end the world isn't stated aside from her just being Ax-Crazy, making those versions an aversion.
  • Shadow Star has Shiina Tamai's older sister Mishou, who died after Shiina's birth. Her death tore the family apart and it'd take more than a decade and another death to patch things up.
  • Chōji Suitengu from Speed Grapher only maintained sanity throughout his years of hellish service in the military by thinking of finding his little sister Yui again after he got out. When he finally does, Yui is so utterly broken by her ordeal that the only thing he can do for her is end her suffering, turning him into a callous bastard and the Big Bad of the series.
  • Dias's motivation in Star Ocean EX was his dead sister.
  • Str.A.In.: Strategic Armored Infantry gives Lottie a dead older brother. Sara's dead schoolmates also fit the "failed to protect" mold, giving her post-traumatic stress syndrome for a long time afterward.
  • Chester, the archer in the anime adaptation of Tales of Phantasia, is driven incessantly by his need for revenge after Mars kills his little sister (his only family) while he is out hunting with the main character. He is so driven that he appears to give up sleep entirely, instead using the night to practice his bowmanship.
  • Tokyo Babylon and X1999:
    • Following the events of Tokyo Babylon, Hokuto serves as this for Subaru during X/1999.
    • Kotori as a dead little sister becomes Kamui's cynicism catalyst midway through X/1999. Her older brother, Fuuma, was the one who killed her.
      • Actually, Kamui and Kotori's case is an inversion of sorts. Before her death, Kamui is apathetic, at most, to his role in the End of the World. While he does take a side before her death, it's the event itself that makes him determined to protect his loved ones that are left, and, thus, to embrace his role as a Dragon of Heaven.
    • In the first Tokyo Babylon OAV, Broken Bird Kazumi Asou has a dead older brother, murdered by his co-worker Shinji Nagumo in an attempt to remove him from competition in their high-class work. In the second, the Serial Killer's Start of Darkness happens when he accidentally kills his little sister as a child, strangling her to death while they were playing and only being discovered when their mother returned home from buying groceries.
  • The Villainous Daughter's Butler, I'll Crush the Destruction Flags: Libert has the backstory of a noble allied to him betraying him, leading to the death of his little sister making him so cynical.
  • Kousei from Your Lie in April stopped playing the piano and became a very cynical boy since his mother died; at least until he met Kaori and slowly reignited his passion for music.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Alister/Amelda joined doom to get revenge on Kaiba for the death of his little brother, later revealed to have been killed on Dartz's orders as part of a massive Gambit Roulette. In fact, Dartz did something like this to nearly all his henchmen, covertly ruining their lives and then swooping in as a Dark Messiah. Mai's Marik-related PTSD was the only part he wasn't responsible for.

    Comic Books 
  • 52: Black Adam's origin story features the deaths of his wife and children, sending him over the edge.
  • Lara, the little girl who secretly rebuilt the battered robot paratrooper Mongrol in ABC Warriors. Her death, compounded with the electric torture that fully returned him to live, took such a toll on his psyche that he was left a single-mindedly violent monster who knows only rage and confusion. According to the narration, in his broken mind, he sees and hears Lara always, encouraging his quest for vengeance against the enemy forces that killed her.
  • Charles and Royal Williams from Astro City were a pair of innocent boys until the brutal death of their parents disillusioned them against society's ideals. Royal ended up a petty cook, believing he was justified in doing whatever was necessary to get by, while Charles ended up a cynical policeman skeptical and distrusting of all super-heroes.
  • In Marvel Comics, the death of Bucky Barnes at the end of World War II served as a continual source of angst and self-flagellation for Captain America.
  • Various retellings of Doctor Strange's origin story give him one to explain how he became Dr. Jerk. In the first version, he didn't have any real excuse; he was just an ass.
  • The Flash villain Captain Cold has always been, as the name implies, a cold-hearted, merciless SOB. He's become even more so since his younger sister, the Golden Glider, was murdered. In one issue, he tracks down, tortures, and murders her killer. A few panels later, he's at home, tears running down his face, saying: "Much as I hate it, my heart's not always cold."
  • In the comics, Snake Eyes from G.I. Joe carries a picture of his twin sister with him during his service in Vietnam, as a good-luck charm. When he comes back home, he learns that his entire family has died in a car accident. And that's just the beginning for him...
  • Green Lantern: In Green Lantern (Volume 3) #155, before Kyle Rayner leaves Earth after being traumatized by the brutal hate crime inflicted on his gay assistant Terry, he tells his then-girlfriend Jade (Jennifer-Lynn Hayden, daughter of the first Green Lantern) about his insights into the human psyche during his time as Ion, and what they revealed to him about man's inhumanity to man:
    Kyle Rayner: Jen, I can't do this anymore.
    Jen: Do what?
    Kyle Rayner: Protect Earth. I've been thinking about something Brainwave said a few months back. About what drove him insane. He said that he had reached into the minds of millions, and all he found was hate. When I was Ion I felt it, too. Jen, there is good in this world, but it doesn't measure up to the bad. In the hearts of humanity, there is anger, there is rape, there is brutality... there is hate. It took this happening to Terry to... break me. I can't help these people now. I don't want to. Earth will have to get by without me.
  • In Madame Mirage the titular character is revealed to be a semi-sentient hologram created by a vengeful young scientist who modeled it after her murdered older sister.
  • All Vietnam Marine Corps veteran Frank Castle wanted to do was take a picnic in Central Park with his family. But then they happened upon a mob killing, the mobster killed his wife and kids before his eyes to prevent witnesses, and when he wasn't allowed to testify because the justice system was in the Mafia's hand, he (understandably) snapped and decided to take justice into his own hands... and thus, The Punisher was born.
  • In Supergirl (2005) story arc Way of the World, Supergirl runs into Aftermath, a villain who used to believe heroes were real and bad things only happened to bad people until the first battle between Superman and Doomsday cost him his legs.
    Aftermath: Once upon a time the world was simple. There were heroes and there were villains and bad things only happened to bad people. And then Doomsday came. "Luckily", I survived the attack, but by then I'd come to realize— that sometimes the bad can even afflict the good. And that while we may believe in heroes, there really is no such thing.
  • Although later comics establish that he had plenty of issues beforehand, getting half his face scorched off by acid thrown at him by a vengeful mobster was the inciting incident that turned noble and upstanding district attorney Harvey Dent into the cynical, nihilistic gangster Two-Face.
  • Ultimate X-Men: Mystique was originally a believer in Xavier until she got a look at his "sick brain" (which may or may not have anything to do with him dumping her for Emma Frost).
  • X-Men:
    • Magneto's Cynicism Catalyst is the Holocaust and other tragic events. After he escaped Auschwitz, he got married to a Gypsy girl named Magda who also ran away from there, moved to Ukraine with her, and tried to continue living his life. Then his daughter Anya was killed by a mob and Magda left him after he killed them all. Even then, it was still several years (and other crap getting piled on him) before he went completely batshit.
    • Fatal Attractions (Marvel Comics): When Colossus' younger sister Illyana/Magik died of the Legacy Virus, he went all gloomy and joined Magneto's side for a while.
  • Late in Y: The Last Man, we discover that Alter Tse'elon's whole military career and militarist attitude were caused by the accidental death of her (older) sister during a pro-Palestinian non-violent demonstration she was participating in.
  • In Zombies Christmas Carol an infected horse biting Scrooge when he tried to help it nurtured his hate and evil, leading him to nearly doom the world. Notably, Scrooge lampshades how petty an event it really was after his reformation.

    Fan Works 
  • Child of the Storm:
    • The brutal Trauma Conga Line of Forever Red left Harry profoundly embittered, cold, and foul-tempered. Time, care, and lots of therapy help improve the situation.
    • Once upon a time, there was a nice young lad called Taliesin; a talented sorcerer, one of history's greatest bards, and a brilliant Court Physician who really and truly loved being a Doctor - it's all he ever wanted. He happily served his King, Arthur, alongside his Big Brother Mentor, Merlin, who was the Court Mage. Then, he decided to go Walking the Earth, learning as much as he could to contribute to Camelot's Golden Age. Then, he came home to find out that the Battle of Camlann had happened; his King dead, his Queen barely holding apart a rickety Kingdom, and Merlin long gone in grief. One Rage Against the Heavens moment later, he made a deal with the Time Stone that transformed him into Doctor Stephen Strange.
    • On several occasions, it's implied by a number of people - including Alison Carter, who knew him well - that Howard Stark's transformation from his cheerful Tony-lite self of WWII into the cold, neglectful, and emotionally abusive man that Tony knew was begun by the apparent death of Steve, and completed by the mysterious disappearance of Peggy Carter.
  • In Season 5 of The Flash Sentry Chronicles, it’s revealed that a Royal Guard named Noble Banner had rescued Cold Steel from the north, and brought him back to Canterlot to train him. When Noble Banner was sent on a mission to the Badlands, he never came back, which led to Cold Steel becoming the apathetic pony that he is in the present.
  • Sleeper Hit AU: Midoriya managed to pass U.A.'s Entrance Exam despite being Quirkless, only for Aizawa to unceremoniously expel him on his very first day there. On top of that, he casually outed him as Quirkless in front of his temporary classmates, and the girl whom he'd saved from the Zero Pointer during the Exam calls him 'Deku' while trying to get his attention afterwards. All of this, coupled with his search for another school willing to take him in almost ending in failure, leaves Midoriya with a much dimmer view of the world of Pro Heroism.
  • Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail:
    • Goh serves as one to both of the Cerise siblings. His growing obsession with Mew led him to neglect his friendship with Chloe, which was a major factor in her developing a distaste for Pokémon. Parker, meanwhile, saw how he left his sister behind, and how badly this affected her, leading him to grow resentful towards Goh as well.
    • Tokio unintentionally served as one for Goh when he was unable to keep his promise to meet up (due to being too sick). Goh misinterpreted this as deliberate, convincing himself that building friendships with other people just wasn't worth it and that Pokémon were better since they couldn't betray you.
    • Chloe becomes one for Goh as the story goes on because he can't understand how much he hurt her. All he wants is for her to come back so things can go back to the way they were except Chloe is unable to return due to many factors: she can't leave the Train until the number on her hand drops to 0, she's currently tasked to stop a cult, and she doesn't want to return if Goh isn't willing to change himself because she knows Goh will abandon her to chase after Mew once more.
  • Happens to SpongeBob in the rewrite of "Plankton's Regular" in A Dash Of Logic, after learning that the Krabby Patty formula is a sham. This revelation breaks his child-like innocence and reduces him to a disillusioned Deadpan Snarker who is a terrible employee and rude to the customers, much to Squidward's delight, and the two start to bond. Fortunately, it was just a visual simulation by Karen.

    Films — Animated 
  • Big Hero 6: Professor Callahan became the villain Yokai to avenge his daughter, who was enveloped in a malfunctioning experiment of Allstair Krei, whom he held responsible for it.
  • In Ice Age, one of the protagonists of the trio, Manny, was revealed to have his little son and wife killed by a group of Neanderthals.
  • Strange Magic: Marianne, after seeing her fiancée with another woman right before their wedding. She gives up on love and becomes a sword-wielding warrior.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the death of Harmony's little sister Jenna drives the plot. What made Harmony all kinds of screwed up and guilty was that she couldn't protect Jenna from their father, and then Harmony skipped town as soon as she was sixteen, leaving Jenna alone with him.
  • In Lady in the Water, after reading Cleveland Heep's diary, Story learns that he became depressed and withdrawn from society after a burglar broke into his house, robbed him, and murdered his wife and children all while he was not home (which he blames himself for).
  • Colonel O'Neil from Stargate originally left the military and went basket case because his son accidentally killed himself with O'Neil's own gun. He only joins the mission to the alien planet (from which there is little chance of returning) because he's downright suicidal.
  • Street Angel: For Angela, her mother's death. For Gino, Angela disappearing without a word right after agreeing to marry him.
  • Underworld (2003): Selene's entire family was brutally murdered by Lycans, leading her to mercilessly hunt them once she became a vampire. Turns out Viktor, who turned her, was the one who actually killed her family.
  • In A Short Film About Killing directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski, the young man on death row espoused a life of crime because he was so haunted by his dead little sister's memory.
  • In Top Gun, Maverick's angst during the second half of the movie comes from his feeling of responsibility for his RIO Goose's death.
  • Hannibal Lecter is given a dead little sister "Mischa" during Hannibal Rising, causing a great deal of Badass Decay. Not enough to stop him from going on another killing spree, however.
  • Star Wars
  • Lakeview Terrace is about a cop (played by Samuel L. Jackson) who will go to any lengths, including intimidation, violence, and murder, to get the interracial couple who just became his new neighbors to move. The event that ultimately drove Turner to focus his rage on the couple is revealed to be the death of his wife, who was killed in a car accident while on her way to meet her white boss with who she was having an affair with.
  • In Face/Off, Castor Troy's accidental murder of Sean Archer's son is a key event in the backstory of the two characters. Later in the film, Sean!Troy kills Castor!Archer's younger brother and partner-in-crime Pollux. Castor!Archer also killed his ex-girlfriend Sascha's brother Dietrich. When they confront each other in a church all three of them bring this up.
    Castor: Look, your son's death was an accident. I wanted to kill you. Why didn't you just let it go or kill yourself?
    Sean: No father could.
    Castor: No brother could either.
    Sascha: Neither could a sister.
  • Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit was revealed to have held a bitter grudge against the Toons after his brother was murdered by a toon.
  • Pacific Rim:
    • Pentecost's sister was one of the fighter jet pilots who lost her life during the first Kaiju attack. Her death was what caused her brother to work with the military to find the best way to combat the Kaiju.
    • Yancy is this for Raleigh.
    • Tendo Choi lost his grandfather to Kaiju blood in the prequel comic.
  • Secondhand Lions: The loss of Uncle Hub's wife Jasmine in childbirth.
  • Split Second (1992): In a flashback, it's shown how Stone was fairly well-composed before his partner was killed by the monster he has since been pursuing. Stone blamed himself (especially because he was having an affair with his partner's wife) and became a paranoid, rude gunslinger in response.
  • Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie: Why is the Angry Video Game Nerd so angry? Because as a child, he played Eee Tee, an experience so traumatic that it mentally scarred him for life.
  • Casablanca: When Ilsa abandoned Rick in Paris (though as Louis notes, Rick's cynicism was never as thorough as he liked to believe). When Rick and Ilsa reconcile, Rick is able to drop the cynicism and become a straight-up hero.
  • Red Lights: Both Margaret and Tom have these as motivations to debunk paranormal claims. Margaret's son is in a coma, which apparently caused a loss of faith and firm disbelief in all things supernatural or paranormal. Tom's mother died due to trusting in a faith healer rather than medicine, with the same results.
  • On Star Trek: The Original Series, Captain Kirk would sometimes regard the Klingons as Worthy Opponents. But after his son David Marcus gets slain by Klingons in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Kirk would start harboring a deep hatred of the Klingons, which wasn't resolved till Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, when Kirk's hatred made him the prime suspect of Klingon Chancellor Gorkon's assassination, almost sparking a war between the Klingons and the Federation.
  • Clara: It's revealed that the source of Isaac's bitterness was his infant. Though not explicit, it's implied this is why he's an atheist and sees no meaning in the universe.

  • Blindfold: The unsolved murder of Tharion's predecessor was this for Eli Strone, driving him to root out corruption and sin, but leading him to see it in places that wasn't really there.
  • From the books of Dale Brown, Patrick McLanahan's little brother almost getting killed is what gets him started on a vigilante quest using the titular Powered Armor of The Tin Man. Eventually, both his wife and brother get killed.
  • The Catcher in the Rye's Holden Caulfield is angry, depressed, and prone to failing out of school largely because of his little brother Allie, who died of leukemia.
  • The Children of Húrin and The Silmarillion: After his beloved younger sister Urwen dies from a plague, the boy Túrin Turambar starts to develop a grim and bitter personality which contributes to much disaster in his later life. Ultimately he is Driven to Suicide, just after the death of his other little sister.
  • A Christmas Carol: Fan Scrooge, who is said to have died in childbirth in some film adaptations. This event triggered/hastened Ebenezer's downward spiral into misery, and he especially hates his nephew/her son Fred for it.
  • In Robin Jarvis' Deptford Mice trilogy, the young city mouse Piccadilly meets and quickly befriends Albert Brown while both are lost in the sewers of Deptford. Not long after, Albert is caught eavesdropping on Jupiter and is murdered by him. The traumatized Piccadilly escapes and swears vengeance against Jupiter's henchrat Morgan, who was the one to hand Albert over to Jupiter.
  • In Alethea Kontis's Enchanted, Tuesday's death hit Monday very hard. It was her endless visits to the graveyard that led to her meeting up with a prince and turning into the bride from "The Princess and the Pea".
  • Hannibal Lecter: Lecter's little sister, Mischa, is pretty key to his later activities: as aristocratic children in WWII Lithuania, Hannibal and Mischa were held captive by the Nazi deserters who killed their parents. Starving, the deserters killed and ate Mischa and tricked Hannibal into... *ahem* partaking. Aside from the obvious, it had a profound influence on Hannibal's other career, and the goal of much of his psychological manipulation is to "put the teacup back together" and somehow bring Mischa back.
  • Inverted in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, in which we learn that Albus Dumbledore was well on his way to becoming a villain, only to have the death of his little sister Ariana (for which he either he, his brother, or his evil best friend Gellert Grindewald was guilty) give him a giant wake-up call and turn him around into a hero. However, played mostly straight with what three muggle boys originally did to Ariana (It was never revealed what they did to her), resulting in her mental health deteriorating, her father getting sent to prison, the mother dying, a rift being torn apart between her two brothers, and as an end result, Albus Dumbledore's bitterness growing.
    • Played straight in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban where Sirius Black wanted Peter "Wormtail" Pettigrew, to pay for betraying James and Lily Potter which led them to their deaths and for falsely accusing him of said betrayal. It doesn't help that staying in a prison full of soul-sucking and emotion-draining monsters made him more bitter and angry.
  • The poet Seamus Heaney lost a younger brother to an automobile accident, and later wrote a gut-wrenching poem about it
  • From Honor Harrington, the death of her little sister Estelle is what spurred Eloise Pritchart, already dissatisfied with the Legislaturalists, to join the April Tribunal. A couple of revolutions, a Secret Relationship, and a lot of lying later, she rises to the top as the truly elected President of the restored Republic of Haven, the head of a government based on a Constitution that had lain buried for two centuries. She got her revenge, all right — and did a lot of good while she was at it.
  • Katniss' father dies five years before The Hunger Games, forcing her to toughen up and learn to hunt to support herself and her family. Later, Rue dies in the games, awakening her killer instinct. Then in Mockingjay, Primrose, the sister that Katniss went through all the hell of the Hunger Games for, dies, driving Katniss towards deep depression and increasingly close to insanity.
  • Stephen King's IT: Little brother Georgie's murder by Pennywise the Clown launches Bill into the leadership role of the Losers Club.
  • King Arthur myth: The accidental slaughter of three of Gawain's younger brothers turns his long rivalry with Lancelot into a vendetta. This fight between the two chief knights leaves the Round Table open to attack, letting Mordred worm his way in and destroy everything. (The theme of revenge is slightly subverted in that Gawain is the one who ends up dead.) Arthur doesn't attack Lancelot until he rescues Guinevere from being burned alive for adultery, and takes her to Joyous Gard, his realm. Sources debate on whether Arthur was counting on Lancelot rescuing the Queen or not.
  • Zachary State in The Mental State is a genuinely kind and understanding person who goes to great lengths to make friends and be a good friend in turn. However, this all changes when he is forced to watch his girlfriend getting raped. The event triggers his latent sociopathy and he changes into 'Zack', a considerably more ruthless, manipulative, and conniving man with delusions of grandeur.
  • Of Mice & Men: George Milton is forced to shoot his friend Gentle Giant Lennie at the end of the book. He loses his American Dream.
  • Bianca di Angelo's death is this for Nico in Percy Jackson and the Olympians. He goes from a cheerful ten-year-old to an angry, disillusioned loner very quickly. And it doesn't get any better.
    • From the same series, Luke Castellan was a pretty normal kid even accounting for his mom who went crazy trying to become the Oracle and rambled off about his inevitable terrible fate, but then he had to watch a good friend's sacrifice. This solidified his belief that the gods don't care and caused him to side with Kronos.
  • In The Purple Widow, Glen O'Brian, a servant at the palace of Tommikia, reveals that his two younger sisters (along with his mother) were burned at the stake for trying to escape imprisonment for false charges. Why, why is it always Glen?
  • The death of Oscar Wilde's little sister Isola was reportedly a major catalyst for much of his darker literature, including his poem for her, "Requiescat".
  • Wendy Torrance in The Shining by Stephen King lost her sister Eileen when she was run over by a car: Eileen was six, Wendy ten at the time. Wendy thinks that's probably the reason her mother became such an insufferable bitch.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Sandor Clegane's little sister's death at the hands of their own older brother, Gregor, is part of the scarring childhood that created the cynical persona the reader meets.
    • Eddard "Ned" Stark has a good dose of this; while he never became a cynic after Lyanna's death, the man does know how to angst.
    • Oberyn and Doran Martell, who want revenge on the Lannisters for the brutal rape and murder of their sister Elia and her young children, Aegon and Rhaenys. It's clear that Elia's death had a big effect on both of them, but particularly Oberyn since he matured quite a bit afterward.
    • Implied to have happened to Littlefinger after being rejected by Catelyn Tully in the backstory. It drove him to jumping way off into the deep end though, and as an adult the only, remotely human feelings he seems to possess is a twisted affection for Catelyn's lookalike daughter, Sansa.
    • Jaime Lannister became one of the most despised men in Westeros for breaking his oath and killing Aerys II Targaryen, a.k.a. "The Mad King", which he did to save hundreds of thousands of people. The fact that he did become so hated for what he considers to be his most heroic and selfless act made him an extremely bitter man. Even before that, Jaime became extremely jaded when he realised his appointment to Aerys's Kingsguard was not a result of him being a Child Prodigy Master Swordsman but so the King could use him as a hostage against Jaime's father and was forced to stand by and watch in silence as Aerys wantonly indulged his penchant for cruelty.
  • Miryem in Spinning Silver knew from childhood how hostile the other villagers were to her and her family for being Jewish, particularly in their continual excuses for never paying back the money they borrowed from her kindhearted moneylender father. But it's when her mother falls deathly ill and the townsfolk still plead poverty while obviously having the money to pay for their upcoming midwinter feasts that pushes her over the edge. Miryem crushes what little goodwill she had towards them and takes the debt collection on herself, refusing to let any of them get away with cheating her family any longer. Although she doesn't do anything unethical (only forcing them to pay what they legally owe), she notes later that none of her subsequent Lithvas-saving activities were motivated by the thought of her neighbors being hurt by the Endless Winter, since they were so obviously willing to let her family starve in their sight out of pure antisemitism.
  • In The Stormlight Archive, Kaladin's long woobifying disillusionment peaks with his younger brother being killed after being used as Cannon Fodder in a war.
  • In Summers at Castle Auburn, Corie takes one of her own potions that opens someone's eyes to reality. She blames this for her horrible realizations the summer she is seventeen, but it is more likely she just grew up enough to understand things.
  • In Those That Wake, Big Black was the tipping point that sent New York into a state of unending hopelessness.
  • In Poul Anderson's "Time Patrol", the death of his fiancée caused Whitcomb's melancholy and willingness to join the Patrol.
  • American beat author Jack Kerouac had an older brother named Gerard who died aged nine when Jack was four. Jack's feelings about this loss show through in many of his books, and one of them, Visions of Gerard, is all about them.
  • Warrior Cats has Talltail, who fantasizes about (and almost goes through with) killing Sparrow as he believes Sparrow was the cause of his father's death.
  • In What the Raven Saw, the titular character was turned into the bitter cynic he is when his mother abandoned him to die, and no-one else in the world tries to help him.
  • Ankaa is this for Virgil in Within Ruin. Her death is the driving force behind the entire plot. Sadly, she is disgusted by everything he has done to resurrect her.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A flashback scene in Battlestar Galactica's Razor'' shows Cain's sister was taken by Cylons moments before the end of the First Cylon War. The fact that Admiral Cain keeps a folding knife she acquired during this incident shows it was a prime motive for her ruthless actions in the 'present day'.
  • In the final episode of Black Books it is revealed in response to Manny's The Reason You Suck speech that Bernard's girlfriend died, triggering his transition into Jerkass Woobie. Slightly subverted in that we are unsure how much of a bastard he actually was before she died and whether he's just using it as an excuse. Also could be subverted with the reveal that she didn't actually die, but he believed she did so it still counts.
    Bernard: I had a girlfriend once actually, she died....So excuse me if I'm a bit out of sorts sometimes.
  • Buffyverse:
    • The entirety of Season 2 was like this for Buffy. When her boyfriend, Angel, turns evil right after sleeping with her, he proceeds to terrorize her for the rest of the school year. Needless to say, she never returned to her plucky personality from the first season.
    • For Willow and Cordelia, it was when they walked into a room only to find that everyone inside was killed by a bunch of vampires.
    • The first episode featuring Gunn (Charles Gunn) who had his little sister become a vampire, forcing him to kill her.
    • Holtz's daughter was turned into a vampire, forcing Holtz to kill her.
    • The biggest instance of this in the entire Buffyverse is what happened to Wesley. His attempt at saving Connor from a dangerous prophecy ends up going completely awry when he gets his throat slit, causing Connor to be tossed in a hell dimension. Despite everyone knowing that he was just trying to help, all of Wesley's friends ended up shunning him, especially Angel, who tries to smother him to death as revenge. From that point on, Wesley had become one of the most broken, cynical characters in the series.
  • Fiona of Burn Notice has a dead little sister, Claire, whose killing at the hands of a British soldier caused Fi to join the IRA. This continues, sometimes subtly, to inform her actions.
  • Criminal Minds:
    • Johnny McHale, a character from the third season. The episode "True Night," took this trope to the extreme. His moment involves the gang rape and murder of his beloved fiancee, Vickie, the contingent murder of their unborn child, and his own near-fatal wounding at the hands of members of the 23rd Street Killers, a street gang. He suffers a psychotic break and becomes a murdering vigilante intent on exacting his revenge on the 23rd Street Killers, though his memories of these actions remain foggy until he is confronted with them by the FBI team. When Rossi comments that his survival was a miracle, implying that he should be thankful to be alive (a twist on the "This isn't what she would have wanted!" exhortation), Johnny responds by screaming, "You think living was a MIRACLE?" He ends up incarcerated in a mental institution where he spends his days drawing pictures of his dead fiancee and calling her cellphone just to hear her voice on her voicemail message.
    • In one episode of the second season, JJ tells Morgan and Reid about how her childhood fear of the woods stemmed from finding the body of someone at a summer camp she worked at as a teenager. Turns out she was just messing with them and there was no real reason.
  • The original Dark Shadows has Sarah Collins as the motivation for at least some of Barnabas' angst.
  • The new series of Doctor Who introduced the Time War as a Cynicism Catalyst for the Doctor. The exact moment it pushed him over the edge was when a gunship crewmember named Cass refused to board his TARDIS because the Time Lords had become horrible degenerates to the universe and the Eighth Doctor rode the crashing ship to their deaths desperately trying to reason with her. They died crashing on Karn, and the Sisterhood of Karn and its high priestess Ohila revived him and offered to facilitate his regeneration. Cass, however, was beyond help, and the Doctor, feeling worthless and broken, chose to regenerate into a warrior, giving rise to the War Doctor, who would renounce his name "Doctor". He ended the war on his terms but forgot everything except that apparently he was the only survivor. It would be ages before the Doctor learned the true outcome of the war and recover his optimism.
  • The Independents' crushing defeat at the Battle of Serenity Valley is presented as this for Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly. Before then, even in the thick of battle, he was always ready with a smile and a quip to his companions (though it's not made clear if it was genuine or a mask he wore to keep morale up for others and himself) and he had at least some faith in God. Their loss at Serenity and the war in general made him a lot more sober and caused him to lose his faith, though he never quite lost his sense of heroism, as much as he might try to deny it.
  • In Flashpoint, it was revealed that Sam had a sister who died in a car accident when he was young. When doing a mission, he froze when he saw a dead woman lying on the ground without her shoes, which triggered memories of his sister who had died in a similar position.
  • Game of Thrones: Jaime Lannister's was the death of the Mad King Aerys Targaryen II at his hands: Turns out that instead of switching sides at the last minute like his father did, the real reason he killed Aerys was to prevent Aerys from using wildfire to annihilate everyone in King's Landing. One of his most truly noble and selfless acts resulted in everyone derisively referring to him as "Kingslayer". That's part of the reason he's become so bitter and lacking in empathy towards others. Later, watching his daughter die from a slow poison in his arms just after she told him how perfectly happy she was with her husband and unborn child has turned him into The Dragon for the Mad King's rightful successor.
  • On Heroes, a dead little sister is revealed to be the motive behind Angela Petrelli and The Company, and all the dickishness they've caused throughout the show. Turns out she's not dead.
  • Kazami Shiro became Kamen Rider V3 after Destron soldiers murdered his family, including his little sister. It prompted him to hunt down Kamen Rider Ichigo and Nigo, trying to convince them to turn him into a Rider-like cyborg.
  • Zero Day was this for Taiga Hanaya in Kamen Rider Ex-Aid. He bet everything on saving his patient, failed, and lost his position, license, and sense of self-worth. He used to be a kind soul devoted to his job but feeling betrayed (and loathing himself more than anyone else could) made him the selfish jerk he is in the main story.
  • Leverage:
    • Nate Ford, whose son died when the insurance company he worked for refused to pay for the treatment that could have saved him. This led to Nate quitting his job, divorcing his wife, and becoming an alcoholic.
    • Parker had a brother who died in front of her after being hit by a car. This is found out by a fake psychic doing a cold reading, which Parker, given who she is, has no way of understanding.
  • In a The Man from U.N.C.L.E. TV movie, "The Fifteen Years Later Affair," we learn that Illya Kuryakin left UNCLE after a betrayal by a double agent led to the death of the Innocent (a young woman) during a mission in Yugoslavia. When Napoleon Solo alludes to this while attempting to persuade Illya to come out of retirement, Illya punches Napoleon in the face.
  • Annie, Kirby's dead girlfriend in the Masters of Horror episode "Cigarette Burns". She killed herself for reasons that are never quite explained, but her copious drug abuse seemed to have sent her in a downward spiral.
  • Miami Vice: The death of Crockett's second wife, Caitlin, is a major contributor to his burnout and depression in Season 5. As Tubbs puts it, "Ever since Caitlin died everything tastes sour."
  • Minority Report (2015): Subverted. The team is investigating a terrorist who is violently against any and all genetic engineering, despite having been a prominent geneticist for decades. He lost his wife a few years ago, and they assume that's what radicalized him, but the timeline doesn't match up. When they catch him and interrogate him, he explains his wife's death had nothing to do with it; of course he was heartbroken, but he worked through it and moved on. What actually radicalized him was a genetic experiment he performed on flies. A minor mistake created a genetic disease that killed every single fly on campus in days. That is what convinced him that genetic engineering was too dangerous to continue, and the main characters can't really argue with his conclusion.
  • In NCIS Ziva says that she was revenge-driven and cold for a long time after her little sister Tali was killed in a Hamas suicide bombing. However, she denies Tony's allegation that this is why she joined Mossad.
  • Nikita:
    • The murder of a rogue Division agent's girlfriend drives him to attempt to kill Percy, Division's leader. This forces Nikita to have to stop him, as Percy has set up several "little black boxes" filled with sensitive information that would bring down the U.S. government, set to be automatically released in the event of his death.
    • This trope is what leads to Michael being recruited to Division in the first place: his wife and child were killed in a car bomb meant for him, and Percy promised to help him track down the man responsible. Nikita is the one who eventually helps Michael get revenge, and it is that plus Percy's lies that lead to Michael's eventual defection to Nikita by the end of Season 1.
  • The Outpost: The massacre of her village in which her family was murdered set Talon on the path to being a cynical and ruthless Anti-Hero.
  • On Person of Interest, Reese's investigation into Root's past led him to discover that she had witnessed her best friend being abducted, never to be seen again, and couldn't get anyone to believe her when she tried to tell what she'd seen.
  • Al Calavicci in Quantum Leap. His younger sister Trudy was mentally handicapped and spent most of her life in and out of mental institutions, as was commonplace in the time they were young. When Al was old enough to gain custody of her, he went back to the institution for her but found out that she had died of pneumonia. The anger in his voice when he asks, "How does a sixteen-year-old girl die from pneumonia in 1953?" says a lot about how heavily the topic weighs on him.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine explains Worf's cynicism and stoicism in the episode "Let He Who is Without Sin...": he was rambunctious as a child and, during a soccer game while in school, accidentally headbutted a rival while scoring a goal. While Worf never felt the impact, he had unwittingly broken his rival's neck. It was then that he came to realize that living among humans means reigning in his boisterous Klingon nature. In adulthood, this translates to Worf upholding Klingon virtues while exhibiting precious few of his race's Hot-Blooded tendencies.
  • In Star Trek: Enterprise engineer 'Trip' Tucker's sister was killed in the Xindi attack on Earth. This affects his behavior throughout the Season 3 'war arc', most notably in "The Forgotten".
  • Star Trek: Picard opens with the reveal that Nero was right to blame the Federation as this is why Picard left Starfleet: The Federation really did leave the Romulans to die and Picard was so disgusted he resigned.note 
  • Supernatural:
    • Mary Winchester was this for Sam and Dean's father John, only John went a lot more off the rails than Sam later did, probably because Dean was only four and not available to do the same level of stabilizing (time travel shows John used to be as clean-cut and youthful as Sam in the pilot—more so, actually, even after Vietnam).
    • Sam's Disposable Woman girlfriend Jessica Moore who gets offed in the pilot functions like a less intense variant of this, and the FBI, who believe the boys are serial killers, interpret it as being this straight.
    • When Sam, Dean's little brother, dies (he obviously gets better; he's the other main character) this is the event that pushes Dean over the edge to make his Suicide-By-Sacrifice Deal with the Devil at the end of Season 2. When Sam's alive, Dean also tends toward Knight Templar Big Brother, although he is the hero.
    • The two several-month periods Sam spends attempting to resurrect and/or avenge his big brother, in "Mystery Spot" and the season break before "Lazarus Rising," see him become Darker and Edgier to the point of Blood Knight. He never actually makes a Face–Heel Turn, but he does start to tolerate a hell of a lot of collateral damage, and then commits the cardinal sin that unmakes any antihero: he was wrong.
    • There's also Gordon, with a nasty twist; he tells Dean about how he became a vampire hunter after they got his little sister and it was him who tracked her down and killed her.
  • Sgt. Maritza Cruz from Third Watch had a younger, drug-addicted sister named Lettie, who died of an overdose — which caused Maritza to bend the rules even more than she usually did in order to find the dealer.
  • One episode of This is Wonderland featured a man trying to get sent to a federal prison so that he could kill the man responsible for the death of his father and brother, but not his sister, who was still alive.
  • Torchwood's Jack Harkness had a tortured little brother. He thought he was responsible for this, having let go of his brother's hand while running away from the creatures who tortured him; and (or so we were told) angsted over it ever since.
  • Josh Lyman from The West Wing has a dead older sister named Joanie, who died in a fire while she was babysitting him. Josh feels unspeakably guilty about the fact that he ran out of the house and left her behind, even though he was only six or seven at the time.
  • The X-Files:
    • Mulder's little sister's disappearance providing probably the biggest motive for a large portion of his adult life and career. He's a loner and sometimes exhibits jerk-ass-like behavior in his Determinator ways, trying to reveal The Conspiracy, though he's really one of the very few good guys on the show.
    • In Season 4's finale, "Gethsemene", there's an inverted Cynicism Catalyst involving the government and an alien corpse that might have been fake, which causes Mulder to send the whole next season disbelieving in the existence of aliens at all.

  • Johnny Cash's older brother Jack died in a lumber mill accident when Johnny aka JR was twelve and Jack was fourteen. This affected Johnny throughout the rest of his life, and Jack Cash is mentioned in the liner notes of his 1996 album "Unchained".
  • Musician Eric Clapton's son died in a tragic accident when just a toddler, about which the songs "The Circus Left Town" and "Tears In Heaven" were written. Though close, this example subverts the Trope — particularly with "Tears In Heaven". Eric rarely plays it in public as he says he has tried to move on from a very sad period in his life and doesn't need the song anymore.
  • Amidst all the Word Salad Lyrics of "American Pie," Don McLean repeatedly references "the day the music died" — the day of the plane crash that killed rock and roll musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson.

    Tabletop Games 
  • George Weathermay, one of the Ravenloft setting's greatest werebeast hunters, began a downward spiral into self-recrimination and depression when he brought his new fiancee home to meet the family, only to have her reveal herself as a lycanthrope and attack his young nieces. Neither girl died, but he blames himself and is now obsessed with tracking down and destroying this treacherous werewolf, whom he fears may have infected one of the twins with lycanthropy.

  • The Mrs. Hawking play series: For Malaika in Gilded Cages, when their plan to feed her starving village fails, Victoria disappears on her, and her entire life is ruined when she is arrested for what they did. She loses all faith in being able to count on others, particularly white people or those more privileged.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Miles Edgeworth in the Ace Attorney series was an excitable and energetic child that strove to defend the innocent like his father was doing as a defense attorney. One day, Edgeworth's father was killed and he was taken in by Manfred von Karma, who raised him to be a ruthless prosecutor. Edgeworth grew up thinking defense attorneys were scumbags and the guilty should be punished. His personality also changed greatly where he is very stoic, rarely emotes, and always tries to keep up a professional front instead of just being himself. Edgeworth does lighten up a little bit after some Character Development, but he's no longer the energetic and eager person he once was.
    • Phoenix Wright in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney became very aloof, snarks openly instead of restricting it to First-Person Smartass, and makes jokes at Apollo's expense. Due to Phoenix losing his ability to practice law after being set up with false evidence, it's not hard to imagine him being at least bitter about it. By Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, he returns to his old chipper self after his innocence is proven and he returns to the world of law.
    • Ema Skye also goes through a cynicism phase in Apollo Justice where it's revealed she failed her forensics exam, thus she is shunted over to detective work instead of the forensics detective that she dreamed of becoming. Ema wanted to be in the field of forensics ever since she was a teenager, but her dreams being crushed left her very bitter and irritable. By the time of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice, she retakes her exam and passes it, becoming happy and chipper like she used to be.
    • The "Dark Age of Law" brought out the cynical side of a few people in Dual Destinies. First there's Professor Aristotle Means, a professor and defense attorney that saw how twisted the courts became under the dark age. Rather than trying to fight it, Means believed the twisted version of the law is something to embrace and he adopted the mantra of "the end justifies the means" where one will do anything it takes to win a case in their favor. There's also Aura Blackquill who saw her brother being charged with a murder he did not commit and despite her demands for a retrial, she was ignored due to lack of evidence proving her brother's innocence. She then grew up becoming extremely bitter and distrusting towards the law and anyone that practices it.
  • Animamundi Dark Alchemist: Its Villain Protagonist Dr. Zaberisk make a deal with Mephistopheles after the ungrateful villagers beheaded his very naive sister for supposedly having a book of witch recipes. This sent him on a series of mass murders and horrible experiments to try to save her. She was indeed a dark sorceress. It's revealed in the end game that she sold her soul to the very same devil to save her brother several years back.
  • In Bioshock 2, the Alpha series Big Daddies were driven mad with grief by the deaths of their bonded little sister, as they saw the girls as their own daughters.
  • Ragna the Bloodedge, the protagonist of the BlazBlue series, has the event where he came home to the church where he and his two orphaned siblings lived only to find the building set on fire and the nun running it butchered. Then he finds his little sister barely breathing on the ground and his little brother who, in a fit of Mind Rape-induced madness, cuts off Ragna's right arm. And then Yuuki Terumi, the man behind this whole fucked up event shows up, spends a couple of minutes mocking and laughing at Ragna before kidnapping Ragna's siblings and leaving Ragna himself unconscious in a pool of his own blood.
    That was when I learned to hate everything.
  • Chrono Trigger: Prince Janus of the Kingdom of Zeal, better known as Magus, was a moody little boy until he got catapulted into the future and lost his older sister Schala in time. Everything he did since — ruling the Fiends, declaring war on Guardia, summoning Lavos, disguising himself as a prophet (complete with future knowledge) when he ended up back in Zeal as an adult, even joining the heroes (if you let him) — he did in hopes of getting her back. At the end of the game, he's still looking. In the sequel, it's Serge who eventually finds her and frees her from the darkness beyond time, causing her to apparently be reborn in our world, where Janus will likely never find her. In the DS Remake, Schala herself tells Magus to give up his quest to save her for his own good. She then promptly teleports the crew back into their own times and sends her brother off. Magus is left bewildered over his purpose, leaving his memories erased in the end.
  • In Dead Rising 2, Stacey mentions that she had a sister who was bitten by a zombie and had to rely on Zombrex to stay alive. She eventually willingly stopped taking Zombrex and turned into a zombie. This is why Stacey is so dedicated to her cause.
  • Dragon Age II:
    • Hawke. Depending on how Hawke is played, personality-wise, this can be played straight, averted or invoked, both from the beginning what with Bethany or Carver dying in the prologue, and the Deep Roads expedition leading to your other sibling dying, becoming a Grey Warden or joining the Circle/Templars and All That Remains in Act II where your mother dies. Even without taking into account the other things that can occur to Hawke and companions throughout the game, is it any wonder an otherwise helpful and heroic, or wisecracking and jovial Hawke can become an angry cynic over the course of the game.
    • Several of Hawke's companions have their own Cynicism Catalyst. Aveline has her husband Wesley, whom either she or Hawke kills in the prologue to save him from the darkspawn taint.
    • Anders has Karl, his ex-lover, who was made Tranquil by the Templars.
    • Sebastian has his entire family, who were murdered by hired thugs, and eventually his mentor Grand Cleric Elthina, whose murder reawakens his lust for vengeance.
    • Varric has his older brother Bartrand, who betrays him and whom he's eventually forced to kill or send to a sanitarium.
    • Merrill's mentor and clan leader, Keeper Marethari, dies to protect her from a demon that Merrill had been communing with to fix an ancient elven artifact. If the player can't make the right dialogue choices then they're forced to slaughter the entire clan as they seek revenge.
    • Fenris has spent his entire life as a slave but the kicker was when he was separated from his master and taken in by the fog warriors who were the first people to ever treat him as a person. But when his master found him and commanded him to slaughter his protectors he was still under such slave-conditioning that he did so. It was this that drove him to go on the run.
    • Isabela was sold into being a trophy wife by her own mother because she refused to convert to the Qun.
    • Knight-Commander Meredith, the closest thing the game has to a main villain, has a textbook dead sister as part of her backstory — her mage sister was possessed by a demon who killed their parents and wiped out their village, leading her to become the most fanatical Templar yet seen.
  • The big bad in Duel Savior Destiny has a dead little sister serving as his motivation, though you don't find out about it until the very last route. He believes the world is so unfair that even if he fails to remake the world as intended he would still be satisfied with its outright destruction.
  • Eliza has Damian's death, which served as one for Nora, since it caused her to leave the tech industry and become an anti-corporate musician (she's far from evil, but very much antagonistic to a lot of her colleagues). Evelyn, the main character, is a more downplayed example since she was left more burnt out and traumatised (likely because she basically came into the office one day, and found he'd died of a stress-induced heart attack overnight) than outright cynical.
  • In Fable II, your older sister is killed in the prologue. Theresa uses this to motivate you to complete the plot of the game.
    • Before the game started, Lucien lost his wife and daughter to an unknown illness, and his sister died when he was young. In Fable: The Journey, Theresa admits she used this to manipulate him into rebuilding the Tattered Spire in the first place.
    • About 4 years before Fable III, Logan goes on an expedition in Aurora, where his squadron is attacked by the Crawler, leaving Logan the only survivor. This, coupled with manipulation by Theresa, makes him realize that he must prepare Albion to fight the Crawler at any cost, even if it means becoming a tyrant.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, Raul Tejada's little sister Rafaela was killed (and likely worse) by raiders while trying to scavenge for supplies for her brother (then undergoing radiation sickness/ghoulification) centuries ago. Later on in his life, he had a Replacement Goldfish that was also killed. However the player, through talking with him and taking him to see various other NPCs can encourage him to pick up his guns and become a Vaquero once again. Young female Couriers might possibly serve as another substitute for Rafaela, especially if they're Hispanic.
    • The sale of Cold Sniper Boone's wife into slavery, forcing him to Mercy Kill her, at first appears to be the catalyst. However, his descent began well before that, when his battalion was ordered to massacre the Great Khans at Bitter Springs.
  • Archer from Fate/stay night is a tragic case. He strove all his life as a crusader to save people but was only met with mistrust and betrayal. He even sold his afterlife to the World as a Heroic Spirit in exchange for the power to save perhaps a hundred people that he was unable to save otherwise. Yet even after he was executed for trying to spark a war he had really been trying to prevent, by one of the people he personally saved no less, he was still able to die without regret and never hated humanity. What turned him into the bitter and disillusioned figure we see in the games was finding out that the World only summons Heroic Spirits after a disaster has spiraled out of control and that instead of saving people, his role was to kill everyone in the area regardless of guilt or innocence.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy Tactics:
    • Final Fantasy VI does a bunch of this with Cyan, who was unable to save his wife and son in the siege of Doma. After an initial fit of berserker rage, he swears vengeance against Kefka for robbing him of his family. His latent guilt over the loss causes a Heroic BSoD later in the game when the heroes must journey into Cyan's subconscious to slay his psychological demons, who turn out to be the Three Stooges.
    • Final Fantasy VII:
      • Cloud's guilt over failing to save Zack and then Aerith inspires him more than once to complete inaction. Only an encouraging farewell from the two deceased characters at the end of Advent Children seems to have lifted this off his shoulders.
      • Vincent Valentine suffers from a grim backstory with regards to Lucrecia, though his response is the melancholic Goth to Cloud's Emo, and there's an element of the 'critical of the main hero's inability' to the two of them.
      • Subverted in the online mode of Dirge of Cerberus. The main character is driven to sacrifice herself to destroy the Restrictor on the basis of memories of her little sister being cruelly murdered, only for Shelke to tell her corpse that she never had a sister; it was an implanted memory to get her to remove the Tsviets' captor so they could go on to try to bring about the end of the world.
    • Inverted by Shelke herself, for whom the sacrifice of her older sister is the inspiration for her to join the good guys and become Vincent's Mission Control.
    • Final Fantasy X
      • Wakka lost his parents when he was still a kid, resulting in him getting a Promotion to Parent for his little brother Chappu. Even as Chappu became The Ace, still Wakka felt responsible for him and that he had to be a protective big brother. Then Chappu broke with Church teachings to join the Crusaders, who use forbidden technology in their fight against the Eldritch Abomination Sin, and died in his first battle. Wakka responds by blaming Chappu's death on the Crusaders' use of forbidden weapons and becomes an almost fanatical follower of the religious laws who doesn't tolerate any challenges to the faith of Yevon.
      • Chappu's fiancee Lulu goes in the opposite direction by becoming deeply cold and cynical, and at one point she practically tells Tidus that Wakka is blaming "evil technology" for Chappu's death in part so Wakka won't have to acknowledge his own role or even Chappu's in the choices that Chappu made.
    • Final Fantasy X-2 has Paine, who is extremely cynical and barely expresses anything positive unless she feels strongly about it. In the past, she was a sphere recorder for Nooj, Gippal, and Baralai during their missions and she was as energetic and happy as the guys were. The group were then thrown into an incident where Barali turned on the group (due to Shuyin possessing Barali's body) and attacked them, causing Nooj and Gippal to retaliate while Paine could do nothing but watch. The group never talked about the incident again, but there was distrust among them in the air and Paine was left with more questions than answers. The friendship among everyone was all but over, which was likely why Paine is always in a cynical mood. Right before the final battle, Paine watches a recording of herself with her friends in a time where she was happy and she wondered what happened to that side of her.
  • Fire Emblem
  • In Injustice: Gods Among Us, the accidental death of Lois Lane and his unborn child at his hands and the destruction of Metropolis —all this orchestrated by the Joker— were the reasons why Superman first became a Well-Intentioned Extremist and Knight Templar and finally turned in a Misanthrope Supreme Straw Nihilist as well as an Evil Overlord and Omnicidal Maniac.
  • In Kindred Spirits on the Roof, Yuna starts the game as aloof, distant from most others and initialy reluctant to play "Yuri Cupid" for couples at the kindred spirits' request, but she wasn't always this way. In middle school, she was Club President of her cooking club and took her role very seriously, but her clubmates resented her. When she was on her way to thank her clubmates for all their hard work, she overheard them badmouthing her, traumatizing her and causing her to distance herself from everyone besides her Childhood Friend Hina.
  • Kingdom Hearts
    • Master Xehanort is implied to have undergone this in his youth. Before taking his Mark of Mastery exam, he embarked on a tour of the worlds and apparently saw numerous examples of supposedly virtuous hearts deceiving themselves. Whatever he specifically saw, it convinced him that the human heart was a false light destined to plague the world with a cancerous shadow. This, combined with his own ego, led him to decide that the world's destiny was best dictated by someone truly strong enough to control everything by first mastering the power of darkness, erasing the false lights in people so that the world's true light could shine unhindered.
    Master of Masters: Sounds like your little trip around the world opened your eyes, but you got a little more than you anticipated. You must have seen a lot of darkness.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, Carth Onasi's mentor Saul Karath abruptly turned on the Republic and joined Revan and Malak, and his first act on their behalf was to bomb Telos IV (Carth's homeworld) so hard the surface became unlivable. The betrayal, combined with the loss of his wife and son as well the fact that Karath hinted at his own turn beforehand but Carth didn't believe him, are the direct cause of Carth's trust issues.
    • The Mandalorian Wars are implied to be this for Revan, Malak, and many of the Jedi that went to war with them: they either believed saving the Republic required greater sacrifice than devotion to the Jedi ideals allowed for, or they were swayed by the Dark Side power they encountered during their battles.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky: Loewe lost his hometown of Hamel when it was attacked by rogue mercenaries, resulting in the death of his lover Karin and her brother Joshua ending up a traumatised Empty Shell. Then he learned it was actually his Erebonia's government that ordered his Hamel's destruction, which then swept the whole thing under the rug. All of this completely shattered his faith in humanity and resulted in him joining Ouroboros and seeking out the Aureole to see if people can no longer be complacent.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker features this trope. Link starts out on his adventure in order to rescue his sister, who's been kidnapped by a gigantic bird which ends up being Ganondorf's pet. It should be noted that this Link is a major case of a Knight Templar Big Brother, which causes him to react to the kidnapping of his sister nearly the same way a "regular person" would react to her death.
  • In Lusternia, the death of Amberle drives Meridian to spearhead the war against the Soulless Gods. Doubling the woe, Amberle is both his dead little sister and dead Love Interest as the Gods have no taboo against incest, being sterile. His reaction to his failure to protect her is gut-wrenching.
    Meridian was the most changed of us all, I think, with the loss of Amberle. He became hard and spent much of his time with the Second Circle, seeking battles wherever he could. The hamadhi said his spirit would heal in time. It was heartbreaking seeing him wandering the beaches and staring out into the oceans, whispering Amberle's name over and over.
  • Mass Effect:
    • In Mass Effect Wrex reveals that as a young krogan he believed his race needed to give up on war after the genophage and focus on rebuilding as a people, gathering a large following of like-minded clans. His father, Jarrod, opposed him and invited Wrex to a meeting on holy ground where no violence is allowed. Jarrod violated this, ordering his men to kill Wrex's companions while Wrex himself escaped after killing Jarrod. Believing his people had abandoned all forms of honor and integrity in favor of blind violence, Wrex gave up any hope of reforming the krogans and left to become a mercensary.
    • Shepard's temporary death is apparently this for Garrus in Mass Effect 2. He's always been a Cowboy Cop, but it's the attack on the Normandy that drives him to quit C-Sec and become an Unscrupulous Hero as the bounty hunter, Archangel.
    • Same for Liara. She goes through hell to retrieve Shepard's corpse, only for them to be nabbed by Cerberus. By the time of the sequel, she's an information broker with a cruelty streak.
    • In Mass Effect 3, the war finally starts to take its toll on Shepard, though they do try to get through, but after they lose Thessia to an asshole, a Paragon Shepard will not be in the mood for Joker's black humor while a Renegade Shepard will start getting tired of never giving up for once.
  • The heavy amount of angst that the title character of Max Payne carries with him is a direct result of the murder of his wife and baby girl three years ago by junkies hopped up on the designer drug Valkyr and was the reason that he joined the DEA in order to root out the source of the drug. And it only piles up with the rising body count. Some of the later plot points rely on it.
  • Metal Gear:
  • Ogen, an apothecary and one of the supporting characters in Octopath Traveler, used to be a Wide-Eyed Idealist who would treat anyone without question, until one of his patients, after receiving his life-saving medical treatment, murdered his late wife, causing him to become The Cynic he's now known in-game. Seeing his late wife's murderer with a family of his own when Ogen tracked him down only served to exacerbate Ogen further, to the point that he snapped and killed the man using the same method said man murdered Ogen's wife. His cynicism has stayed with him — in fact, he outright states "Some lives are not worth saving."
  • Persona:
    • Persona 2 has a bit of this around Joker, who accuses Tatsuya of killing their 'big sis'. The 'big sis' is actually Maya Amano, who's been with them the whole since she actually escaped the fire. Oh, and Tatsuya was the one who wanted to save her. Hell, it has a lot of this with Tatsuya. When Maya does die, Tatsuya fucks up an entire world because of it. And then he has to remember everything to keep her from dying again.
    • Persona 3:
      • Inverted with Akihiko Sanada. Instead of causing him to sink into despair, the death of his sister Miki spurred him on to fight harder to protect others — or, in his own words, to "become strong enough to do what is right".
      • Persona 3 Portable puts a very different spin on this if you play as a female main character. Akihiko is motivated to become stronger not simply to save others, but to avoid feeling the pain of being powerless to save someone who is precious to him. His social link halts when he senses the heroine is becoming too important to him because as he later explains after some character development, it was easier to not let things become too important than to risk losing them. But after said character development, his motivation shifts from pain avoidance to a true desire to protect the people he cares about.
    • Played with in Persona 4. Nanako's death inspires the party to attempt to get revenge on Taro Nametame, turning their backs on their normally cheery, happy-go-lucky attitude towards the investigation. If the party lets Nanako's death get the better of them, she stays dead and the player gets the bad ending.
  • Natasha from Rusty Hearts is in the fight against Vlad because her brother was lost in an attack.
  • In Shinrai: Broken Beyond Despair, this is zig-zagged with Raiko when it comes to her sister's death, a tragedy she believes is her fault. On the one hand, Raiko became more gloomy after the event in question, as her parents and Kamen, who met Raiko shortly before the incident, can attest to. On the other hand, Raiko resolved to become a better person to make up for the guilt of letting such a thing happen.
  • Silent Hill 3 has Heather avenging Harry's death after he is killed off halfway through the game.
  • Suikoden II: One of the reasons for Luca Blight's constant sociopathic Unstoppable Rage is due to the fact that when he was a child, he and his mother were kidnapped by mercenaries, who forced him to watch as his mother was raped repeatedly in front of him and later died giving birth to his half-sister Jillia. When he found out that said mercenaries were hired by Muse, he developed a profound, murderous hatred towards them and to his father, Agares, who cowardly fled when his family was attacked.
  • Suikoden V: The Barows have their own example in Hiram, Euram and Luserina's older brother, who also got assassinated by Nether Gate during the same civil war. Their mother was bedridden afterwards, and it's implied that Euram's loutish behavior grew far worse following his brother's death, as he became heir apparent in his place.
  • Super Paper Mario: Blumiere became the Big Bad Count Bleck to avenge the loss of his love, who was in truth banished by his cruel father to another dimension.
  • In Super Robot Wars V, Soji and Chitose lost their families to Gamilas bombardments. While this left a mark on their psyches, they are also quick to point out that there are a lot of people in the world with the same problem.
  • In Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 3: Lair of the Leviathan, we learn from Coronado De Cava that Morgan LeFlay was recently devastated by the death of her Uncle Jugbender, and was probably seeking revenge on someone who killed him, as described by her mumble in her sleep: "THIS is for JUGBENDER!"
  • Tales of Symphonia:
    • Martel's younger sibling turned evil following her death' variety. Intriguingly, her fiancée eventually went the other way (though he went along to start with) and started opposing her brother following her death, realizing fully well that the insanity that resulted was definitively not what she would have wanted. Regardless, both of them became much more bitter and cynical after her death than before it.
    • The death of Alicia, Regal's fiancée, who he killed after she was mutated into a monster and begged him to kill her caused Regal to become The Atoner to the nth degree. He eventually makes peace with her ghost, who is in a position to tell him that she didn't want him to torture himself in that manner personally. He keeps torturing himself, though. At least until the Big Bad is taken down, in which he's fulfilled his promise to atone for his crime.
    • Kratos being forced to kill his wife Anna, along with the assumed death of his son Lloyd, caused him to lose all hope in creating a better world on his own and return to Mithos and Cruxis.
  • Tekken 6, Miguel's reason to join the King of Iron Fist Tournament is to avenge his sister, who's killed by Jin Kazama's bombers in the intro.
  • Valkyria Chronicles:
    • Welkin's little sister Isara is shot down completely out of nowhere, just as she was about to befriend Rosie, who had been racist towards her the entire game. In fact, oddly enough, he seems to be the least affected by it all. If anything, it's Rosie who was the most devastated, considering her tear-jerking funeral song, not to mention that she visits her grave yearly, unlike a certain brother. At least he named his daughter after her.
    • Cynicism Catalyst is Inverted for Rosie, as Isara's death is what finally gets her to stop being a cynical racist and become a much more likable character.
  • In The World Ends with You, the player is introduced to a pair of players named Beat (the older and slower one) and Rhyme (his younger female partner, who does all the thinking). Rhyme gets erased by Uzuki's Noise, and Beat briefly joins The Dark Side. It gets worse — Rhyme is actually Beat's kid sister, and it's his fault they were in the Reaper's Game to begin with — one day, she ran out of the house after they got in a fight, and ended up in front of an oncoming car. Beat dove into the street to protect her... and both of them were killed. In other words, Beat has doubled the guilt.
    • It is somewhat implied in the main game and Another Day that this also happened to Neku with the death of his best friend who died in a car accident being this for him, causing Neku to develop massive amounts of Survivor's Guilt and blame himself for what happened, thus getting him to shut himself off from the rest of the world.
  • The destruction of Theramore ends up as this for Jaina Proudmore in World of Warcraft. Previously the most diplomatic and peaceful alliance leader, Jaina loses all her previous idealism and comes to believe that the Horde can only be dealt with through war.

    Web Comics 
  • In El Goonish Shive, Susan has had two of these; the first was the aftermath of her father cheating on her mother and the second was when she had to kill the aberration.
  • In Errant Story, Ian set off on his quest to find the elven gods because his older sister was dying and he wanted to find a way to heal her. When he achieves godlike power and returns home to find that she died while he was away, he snaps and blows up a few cities.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: Antimony being forced to lead her own mother to the afterlife.
  • I'm the Grim Reaper: Scarlet’s comes very early in the story. At first she’s more apprehensive about killing sinners, but when the seemingly nice young man she meets who’s marked as one turns out to be a cold-blooded serial killer, she quickly becomes more jaded and willing to do the job.
  • Nebula: Witnessing Sun kill Ceres (the only other member of his species he'd ever seen) is what drives Pluto to abandon hope of befriending the rest of the group and makes him leave to go join Black Hole.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Roy Greenhilt has a dead little brother named Eric. Eugene's magic experiments were responsible, but Roy blames himself to a certain degree for failing to get his arrogant father's attention before the lab exploded. His comment on Eric's love of music and potential future as a bard may also provide insight into his relationship with Elan.
    • Redcloak, the Anti-Villain, is revealed to have a dead little sister in the prequel book Start of Darkness, and at the end of the book, he's forced to kill his brother too.
    • Varsuvius really screws up with that deal with the three fiends, but after they find out that their purge to end the cycle of revenge killed a LOT of humans (and their many, many in-laws), whose ancestor fell in love with a dragon, the cynicism kicks in and makes them much less of a Large Ham and more of a Vulcan. In the next book, they don't show ANY haughtiness or flashy gestures at all when casting spells.
  • In Picatrix, Samael is motivated to exact revenge on the angel of death who took the soul of his twin sister.
  • In Powerpuff Girls Doujinshi, Dexter seems to be collecting these. First of all he's got the haunting death of Dee Dee, his dead sister (ironically a dead big sister) hanging over him. Then, not long after, he develops a secondary complex involving his guilt over Mandark's death in light of Mandark's own little sister promptly moving to Dexter's school after the loss of her sibling. One way or another, he’s suffering a lot of angst these days.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Something, that is most likely linked to the Promotion to Parent in his backstory, has caused Onni to fear the Silent World to the point that he hasn't left his home military base in 11 years when the story starts and he has been doing all he could to keep his younger sister in there as well. Whatever means he used for this apparently backfired, as the younger sister in question is now fascinated with the Silent World and accepts a job to explore it. Onni can't bring himself to accompany her there, even if it means getting separated from her.
  • Hoh from Tower of God feels guilty for not being strong enough to protect his friends from a berserk stray warrior. It has made him rather jealous and loathing towards anyone with greater power than him, especially Bam.
  • Darby has the older brother version in TRU-Life Adventures. Watching how others got hypocritical in response had more of an impact than the actual death, though.
  • The Wotch: It is strongly implied that Miranda West's distance is because she blames herself for her friends' deaths.

    Web Original 
  • Can You Spare a Quarter?: Jamie began to run away from home after his uncle died; he had been the only relative to treat him well and until then Jamie thought he might be taken by his uncle.
  • In Noob, after years of being the Only Sane Man of a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, Arthéon got an in-game girlfriend with whom he got along perfectly well. The girlfriend interrupted their in-game wedding because she found out something more interesting to her was happening elsewhere. This prompted Arthéon to question all his current friendships lash out on pretty much everyone, including his own guild by disbanding it.
  • Reds!: The United States entering the First World War much earlier, and seeing a significantly higher death toll as a result, was this for a great many Americans. The individual character most directly affected by this in the narrative is George Patton, of all people: The horrors of trench warfare were enough to throw cold water on even his Blood Knight tendencies, and the lack of any clear reason why this whole war started and what America is getting out of sending thousands of its young men to their deaths every day forced him to do some serious self-reflection about his Patriotic Fervor and the gulf between the country the United States was and the country he wanted it to be. He returned home from the war a very changed man, but not necessarily for the worse: Losing a lot of his idealism about his country was what prevented him being drawn into the proto-fascist movement that was developing around General MacArthur.
  • In Red vs. Blue, Agent Washington was shown in the Project Freelancer sections to have been a fairly idealistic and warm guy. However, having an AI go mad inside his head and show him all that had happened to the Alpha AI and the Director turned him into the bitter, cynical man he is in the present. He's gotten much better (at least on the warm end) thanks to his interactions with the Reds and Blues, but it's clear the man he used to be is gone.
  • Take a Lemon:
    • Marsh seems to regard his little sister Tina as dead, even though she is standing right in front of him because her memories were apparently altered by the experiment.
    • Later in the story, Marsh finds out that his favorite cousin is now Ret-Gone due to the same experiment, leading to a Heroic BSoD.
  • In Twig, Sylvester's upbringing being used as a test subject for the experimental Wyvern Formula served to make him automatically distrustful of kindness, since he knew it was always followed by pain. Jamie even calls it a "compulsion to attack people who are kind to him," no matter if their kindness is genuine or not.
  • On We're Alive, Todd's death at the hands of the zombies is Lizzy's main reason for wanting to kill every zombie she sees.
    • After Samantha's Death, Datu spends a lot of time being generally depressed and hopeless. During The War and its aftermath he is completely convinced that everyone is going to die and begins leading some of the other Tower members in prayer rather than trying to help fend off the Mallers/zombies/fire. It isn't until Michael, Pegs and Kelly return from the Colony with Samantha's daughter, Hope, that he really gets better.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • The Kennedys:
    • John Fitzgerald Kennedy had his dead older brother Joseph, who died in World War II. Both he and Joseph Jr. were dead older brothers to Bobby and Ted, and sadly, JFK, RFK, and Joe Jr. all were dead older brothers to Ted, the only one who lived a full life.
    • JFK's two sons, Patrick (dead two days after his birth) and John Jr. (dead in a plane crash alongside his wife and sister-in-law) are dead younger brothers to his only surviving child, his daughter Caroline. Who also has a dead older sister in Arabella (a stillborn child).
    • The Kennedy Family's involvement in the Special Olympics is inspired by (or perhaps penance for) the fate of Rosemary, who was lobotomized and then kept in an asylum for most of her life because Joseph Kennedy Sr. was flimflammed into thinking it was a good way to deal with a willful daughter by celebrity lobotomist Walter Freeman.
  • Richard Nixon was always an intense political campaigner, but his paranoia and Machiavellian tendencies were only exacerbated after losing the 1960 presidential election and the 1962 California gubernatorial election back to back. Both times, he felt humiliated and bitter at losing and being outplayed, particularly by the Kennedy campaign, and had (admittedly good) reason to believe that the press had unfairly favored his opponents. After that, he vowed to never let himself be caught off-guard again, leading to later incidents such as the Dragon Lady Affair (where he probably had a contact sabotage peace talks between North and South Vietnam in order to hurt his 1968 opponent, Hubert Humphrey) and, of course, Watergate (though Nixon did not personally order the break-in, and did not know about it before reading about it in the newspaper, he immediately got in on covering it up).
  • Samuel Clemens lost his younger brother Henry in a boiler explosion on the steamboat that he piloted, and was guilt-ridden about it for the rest of his life.
  • Akiyuki Nosaka, author of Grave of the Fireflies, wrote it as an apology to his little sister who died of malnutrition in war-torn Japan during WWII. Internet rumor has it that she didn't die of malnutrition and that he simply lost her one day and never saw her again. The book (and subsequent anime film) were ways of convincing himself of this. Japan's records of the time are terrible at best and it's most likely that the story was crossed with one of someone else.
  • Known for being something of an idealist before, Aaron Burr, the man who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel, was hit hard by the state-sponsored attempt(s) on his life in 1807, trying (and failing) to shoot himself after his trial ended. Though he made no further attempts (that we know of) to kill himself, he was never quite the same again, becoming rather cynical and sardonic for the rest of his life. He also became extremely paranoid, assuming at least five separate aliases, disguising his handwriting, and carrying concealed weapons at all times—where he had previously been known as the exact opposite.
    • Burr had also previously had a more minor one on January 26 of 1804, the day he learned that Thomas Jefferson, along with the entire Democratic-Republican party, had betrayed him (and indeed had been working against him behind-the-scenes for over a decade); this was enough to make Burr rather disillusioned with the party, and politics in general.
  • The Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis and his daughter/heiress Christina had his son and her older brother die, respectively: Alexandre Onassis Livanos, who died in a plane crash at age 25 (which is a favorite topic among Conspiracy Theorists). Both of his parents crossed the Despair Event Horizon at that: mother Athena Mary Livanos ("Tina") killed herself, Aristotle's already decaying health plummeted and he died a few months later. Christina outlived everyone for more than a decade, but she didn't have it much easier, either.
  • Philip K. Dick's twin sister died when the two were only five weeks old. Being raised as a child with this knowledge (his mother allegedly claimed that the wrong child had died during an argument), the loss haunted PKD throughout his life. The figure of the mysterious, dark-haired, and unattainable woman that is prominent in so many of his works (especially "Flow My Tears, the Police Said") is said to be based on PKD's imaginings of what his sister would have been like had she lived.
  • As told in Boy: Tales of Childhood, the loss of Roald Dahl's older sister Astri drove his father to Death by Despair when he fell ill with pneumonia.
  • Wyatt Earp's vendetta against The Cowboys, following his brother Virgil's permanent injury and Morgan's death. It's known for being retold in the film Tombstone.
  • Back in 2004, UFC middleweight Vitor Belfort's sister Priscila was abducted in Brazil, and for three years he used his fights as a soapbox from which to tell fans about this and solicit information and help. The distraction due to this contributed to his losses in this time. Unfortunately in 2007, a woman ended up confessing to her murder, though the Belforts didn't initially believe her (fearing rather the possibility of her covering for someone else). Nevertheless, it was only after this that his career turned around — and at his UFC 142: RIO, her face was on his team banner.
  • Vincent van Gogh had an older brother, also named Vincent, stillborn the year earlier. It's been suggested this knowledge deeply influenced him and his artwork. Whatever the case, he was a very unhappy person in adult life, and eventually killed himself.note 
  • Charles Dickens was greatly affected by a railway disaster caused when a maintenance crew failed to warn oncoming trains of work on the line ahead. He, his mother, and his mistress all survived, but his son noted that Dicken's outlook on life changed from that point forward, and he grew increasingly bitter.

Alternative Title(s): Dead Little Sister